By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

It goes without saying that lakes live on water.

But for the people who manage the area surrounding the lake, there is simply too much of a good thing.

Craig Mowry, manager of the Kirwin National Wildlife Refuge, is at that point. Or rather, Kirwin Reservoir, after climbing nearly 5 feet into flood pool, is at that point.

The problem is not so much the lake itself, but the roads and parking areas surrounding it. Even shore damage is significant, especially where the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service maintains a water well, supplying water to the entire refuge and the Dane G. Hanson Scout Reservation on the south side of the lake.

"It's been kind of crazy," Mowry said of the situation surrounding Kirwin Reservoir.

Kirwin and Webster Reservoir alike have been enjoying the benefits of an abundance of water over the past two years, while other northwest Kansas lakes haven't been quite so fortunate.

But when 8 to 10 inches of rain fell just upstream of Kirwin in late June, the water rushed in via both Bow Creek and the North Fork of the Solomon River.

"I think we were about 5 to 51βΡ4 feet into flood pool," Mowry said of how high the water rose after the deluge.

"I left on Friday and came back on Monday and it was a different world," he said of the water levels in the lake after the big storm.

All this water is coming in the wake of a 2002 prediction from hydrologists "that we would be dry for 20 years."

So Mowry and crew planned for a recreation system that was based on low water levels.

That, of course, has been under water since last year when the lake filled up and has remained full, several times going into flood stage.

But even efforts, including native grass seedings at the conservation level, have been plundered by the floodwaters.

Now, Mowry is dealing with roads that are washed out, and no money to deal with the problems.

"We definitely have some roads that we won't be able to open back up," he said.

The refuge, he said, is out of money to do repairs from this year's damage.

Ironically, however, Mowry said the $100,000 in damages last year from high water might end up covering some of this year's damage.

Some of the materials necessary to repair last year's damage, such as gravel for roads, has just been contracted and is being delivered or ready to be picked up.

It likely won't be enough to repair all the damage.

Last year, Mowry said, the water climbed to a maximum of 3.6 feet into flood stage.

This year, the water nearly reached the level seen in 1993, a year of floods nationwide.

The damage hasn't been limited to the refuge.

In the push to get water out of the lake, the Bureau of Reclamation was releasing water down the old river channel. But the crush of water -- and debris -- damaged culverts under the road leading south out of Kirwin.

Rather than cause even more damage, they switched over to releasing water out of the spillway, opening two of the 15 gates.

Releasing water there, however, has caused problems for a makeshift berm that was built to protect baffles designed to slow the flow of water.

The berm was designed to wash away if necessary and that's just what it's doing.

It has, however, become a popular fishing pier as the water rushes out of the spillway, bringing with it supplies of fish.

Mowry said there's also a county bridge on the south side of the refuge that has been undercut by the rushing water flowing down Bow Creek into the reservoir.

"That bridge is closed and will be for a while," Mowry said.

Despite all that, he's holding out hope that the worst is behind the refuge.

"Odds are, we won't get that high again because we haven't been that high since 1993," he said.